Maker Pro News: Urban-X Reboots, Powered Exoskeletons, the Future of Food, and More

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Maker Pro News: Urban-X Reboots, Powered Exoskeletons, the Future of Food, and More

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“Cooking for ourselves gives us control”Make: Founder Dale Dougherty

Tracking Crowdfunding Deliverables – Finally

It’s swiftly becoming a classic story: an ambitious crowdfunding campaign goes viral and racks up millions of dollars in funding with flashy promotional materials, but backers grow anxious as the months drag into years and the product still hasn’t shipped. And when a project fades away without delivering, it’s discouraging to backers and embarrassing to the platform.

But platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are taking steps to fight those hardware flops. Last year, the latter hired journalist Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) to investigate how dronemaker Torquing Robotics managed to fritter away some $3.5 million without producing a workable Zano drone like the one it advertised during the campaign. Harris’s entire saga is riveting, but his key finding was that the creators were far more skilled at marketing than development; in his estimation, the project never stood a chance.

The Harris report is only one example of how platforms are now vetting and supporting hardware entrepreneurs. We’ve reported on Kickstarter’s collaboration with Avnet (@Avnet) and Dragon Innovation (@dragoninnovate) to create Hardware Studiosuite of practical resources for would-be manufacturers; Indiegogo partnered last year with Arrow Electronics (@ArrowGlobal) last year to create a program in which all electronics creators can receive a free review of their design and bill of materials. Stay tuned as it comes time for this cohort to deliver.

BMW Reboots Urban-X Incubator

When the NYC-based Urban-X (@urbanxaccel) incubator launched last year, it was as a collaboration between auto giant BMW and accelerator HAX (@hax_co). As the program moves forward, it appears that BMW is dropping HAX in favor of investment fund Urban Us (@UrbanUsCo).

BMW says the restarted program will focus on startups that confront climate change. It’s also increasing the length of the program from three months to five and increasing investments in graduates to $100,000 from $60,000.

The Future of the Food Maker Movement

On the tail of a Bay Area Maker Faire that highlighted the growing role of food hackers in the maker movement, Make: contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchinireflects on lessons from the numerous food startups that took part in the event — and connects that ethos to themes in Make: founder Dale Dougherty’s (@dalepd) latest book, “Free to Make.”

“Cooking for ourselves gives us control,” Dougherty wrote.

And speaking of food maker pros, don’t miss Cecchini’s latest in a series of profiles about the burgeoning edible insect industry, this time about the mealworm growers at Tiny Farms (@tiny_farms).

Fabrication Frontiers

Here’s an intriguing concept: Prynt (@prynt), which makes smartphone-sized photo printers, is working on a new unit that syncs each printed still with a cloud-based video; if you scan the physical photo with the Prynt app, it overlays the moving image on the physical photo, like photographs in the Harry Potter fantasy novels.

On the Make: blog, contributor Kurt Hamel (@Khamel627) reviewed the MonoFab SRM-20 and found it to be a straightforward desktop CNC solution, and while Digital Fabrication Editor Matt Stultz (@MattStultz) was thrilled with the results of the mUVe 3D DLP Pro+, he warns that the machine has a few physical quirks.

Also, a question for our readers: Just a few years ago, laser cutters were the expensive domain of specialized artisans and industrial researchers. Now there are a few home options, but none have succeeded quite like Glowforge (@glowforge) in stamping out a recognizable brand that differentiated the venture from its competitors. What did they do right? When did you first hear of Glowforge? Let us know:

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Silicon Valley power players are scrambling to cash in on the hardware potential of advanced AI, from self-driving cars to home robotics. But some of the most promising work in the field is now moving to China.

Speaking of maker pros in Asia, Kickstarter is planning to launch in Japan — perhaps the most vaunted hardware market on Earth — later this year.

According to a new report, big-box retailer Lowes is rolling out a pilot program that provides its workers with powered exoskeletons the company created in partnership with researchers at Virginia Tech. The first store to receive the suits is in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Snap (@Snap), the company behind the breakout social app Snapchat, has already demonstrated its interest in the hardware space with its “Spectacles” cameras. Now, the company has reportedly acquired Ctrl Me Robotics (@Ctrl_Me), an LA dronemaker — but no word on what it intends to do with the project.

And on the Make: blog, check out this roundup of eight exceptional dev boards, broken down by intended use, as well as this feature about intuitive video game control systems that defy industry conventions.

Photo by Hep Svadja
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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian


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